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With President Bush planning to meet with small business leaders in Portland, Oregon on Friday, Senator Patty Murray today called him to finally support one of the most important economic development projects in the region: Columbia River Channel Deepening.  Despite years of bipartisan work in support of the project, the President has failed to offer his support for this job-creating effort.   

For years, Murray has battled the Administration on channel deepening, securing $3.5 million last year and $10 million over the past five years for the project while the Administration has recommended nothing.  In a letter, Murray today told the President that she will continue to fight, even in the face of his opposition, but that Presidential support would go a long way toward ensuring prompt work on the project.   

The text of the letter is included below:     

August 11, 2004
 
President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D.C.  20500


Dear Mr. President:

I understand from news accounts that you intend to visit Portland, Oregon this week to discuss ways to improve our faltering economy with area small business leaders.  I hope that you will take the time to address one of the most important economic issues facing that region during your visit: Columbia River Channel Deepening.   

The Columbia River deep draft channel is the lifeblood of the Columbia/Snake River System, which serves shippers from more than 40 states and is a critical economic engine for the Pacific Northwest. The project will make the river channel three feet deeper, allowing new generations of ships to serve the region and improving commerce opportunities between Washington state and the Pacific Rim.  For several years, many of us in Congress have worked on this important project because we know it means better jobs and improved competitiveness for the entire region.  At a time when business owners, port officials, workers and their families throughout the Northwest remain unsure of the economy, providing the $15 million Army Corps of Engineers needs is a concrete step forward available to us in the fight to improve the lives of our citizens.   

Members of Congress from Washington, Oregon and Idaho all support this proposal.  But unfortunately, you have failed to step forward and support it.  For two years running you requested zero dollars for channel deepening while also cutting overall funding for the Army Corps of Engineers.  

Despite your objections, many of us, on a bipartisan basis, have worked to secure the $15 million the Army Corps says it needs to move forward.  While your budget last year didn’t provide a dime, I was able to secure $3.5 million to fund Channel Deepening in the FY2004 appropriations process.  And after another budget with no funding requested, the Republican-controlled House Appropriations Committee recently approved a bill containing just $3 million of the $15 million – far less than what we need to move ahead.   

All of us who are working on this project want your support.  As I’m sure you’ll hear Friday, you can’t talk about creating jobs and improving the economy in Portland and Southwest Washington without endorsing our work on Channel Deepening.  As you can see from past years, we’ll stand up for our state and include money for the project regardless of your request.  But your support would go a long way toward ensuring the completion of this vital economic development project. 

I will continue to fight for good jobs for workers throughout Southwest Washington and a better economy for the entire region.  That’s why I intend to continue working for the full $15 million we need when we on the Senate Appropriations Committee write our bill next month.   

I look forward to hearing your comments on the issue and to receiving a revised budget request that provides the funds needed to move this project ahead.   

Sincerely,
 

Patty Murray
United States Senator